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House Republicans launch ‘phase two’ of Trump dossier probe

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House Intelligence Committee Republicans have launched “phase two” of their probe into the origins of the unverified anti-Trump dossier, firing off an inquiry to a host of current and former officials including former FBI director James Comey.

In a letter obtained by Fox News, committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., posed a string of dossier-related questions to current and former intelligence; law enforcement; and State Department officials. He specifically wants to know when they learned the document was funded by Democratic sources, and how it was used to obtain one or more surveillance warrants at the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In the Feb. 20-dated letter, Nunes even threatened to issue subpoenas.

“If you do not provide timely answers on a voluntary basis, the Committee will initiate compulsory process,” he wrote. 

Nunes, with cooperation from the White House, earlier this month released a controversial memo alleging the anti-Trump dossier – compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign – was crucial in the application for a surveillance warrant against Trump associate Carter Page.

Democrats have called that memo misleading and want to release a memo of their own – though have been delayed amid national security objections from the White House. Amid the firestorm, Nunes told Fox News earlier this month that his committee would pursue “phase two” of the investigation.

He suggested this would include scrutinizing the State Department and other agencies.

The new letter includes a dozen questions about the dossier, including how the officials in question learned of the document’s Democratic funding and whether they held meetings about the unverified allegations against Trump or took any other official action. 

Fox News understands the questionnaire went out to about two-dozen current and former officials.

Among them were Comey, former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan, who testified in May 2017 that the Trump dossier was virtually unknown to him.

“I have no awareness,” Brennan said, when asked by GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy if the FBI ever relied on the dossier as part of any court applications.

The newly released GOP memo says the FBI and Justice Department relied heavily on the Trump  dossier and downplayed its Democratic roots.

A source close to the investigation is not ruling out the possibility that more officials could be questioned as the next phase of the probe continues. 

Perhaps anticipating this phase of the investigation, an Obama State Department official earlier this month acknowledged he had regular contact with the dossier’s author.

In a Washington Post column, Jonathan Winer detailed an extensive exchange of documents with Steele, a friend of his since 2009. He said he shared “more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department” over a period of two years. These weren’t related to American politics – but he would later share information about the Trump dossier with the top levels of the Obama State Department.

Further, Winer said he shared separate Trump-related material passed on by a Clinton contact with Steele. And he acknowledged that material, originally from Clinton-tied activist/journalist Cody Shearer, made its way to the FBI.

In publishing his Op-Ed, Winer wrote that he suspects Nunes wants to know about his own relationship with Steele while at the Obama State Department.

Fox News’ Judson Berger contributed to this report.

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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Boris Johnson plots Easter coronavirus lockdown escape as school bosses fear the worst

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BORIS Johnson is putting his mind towards relaxing coronavirus restrictions over Easter, it is claimed.

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Trump pardons Steve Bannon along with dozens of others in final hours in office

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a wave of pardons Tuesday night, using the final hours of his presidency to grant clemency to dozens of people, including former top White House aide Steve Bannon, according a list made public by the White House on Wednesday morning.

Bannon — Trump’s former chief strategist in the White House who was in charge of the final months of his 2016 presidential campaign — was indicted in August along with three others on wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon’s crowdfunding “We Build The Wall” campaign took hundreds of thousands of donated dollars and used them for personal expenses. He was brought into custody by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents while on board the yacht of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

Trump distanced himself from Bannon following the arrest, calling it a “very sad thing” for Bannon and insisted that he was not in favor of private funding for his border wall. The president called the effort “showboating.” “I know nothing about the project, other than I didn’t like, when I read about it, I didn’t like it,” Trump said.

Among those pardoned are rapper and music executive Lil Wayne, rapper Kodak Black, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Lil Wayne, a Trump supporter, pleaded guilty in December to a federal weapons charge after he carried a handgun from California to Florida on his private jet. Due to past felony convictions, Lil Wayne is barred under federal law from possessing firearms. Lil Wayne has not yet been convicted but the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Broidy was a top fundraiser for Trump and the Republican Party who pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws. Prosecutors said that the scheme aimed to have the Trump administration sink an investigation into the multibillion-dollar looting of a Malaysian state investment fund.

Kodak Black, whose legal name is Bill Kapri, was sentenced to 46 months in prison on federal weapons charges in 2019 after admitting that he falsified information on federal forms to buy four firearms. The rapper obtained three guns: a 9mm handgun, a .380-caliber handgun and a semi-automatic Mini Draco weapon.

Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and resigned from office as part of a plea deal in 2008 following a pay-to-play scheme in which Kilpatrick and his father took kickbacks and bribes to steer city business to certain contractors. He initially served 99 days in prison but then served an additional year for violating his probation and was released in 2011.

Trump has spent the final days of his presidency fixated on his power to issue pardons, meeting with advisors to hash out who should be on his list.

Trump, who did not hold any public event in his last week in office, met in the Oval Office on Monday with aides, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to discuss the final list of pardons and commutations, according to a White House official.

Trump and family members were not on the list of pardons released by the White House, although there has been speculation he was considering that. Trump can make additional pardons up until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in and names are required to be made public.

The Constitution gives the president broad clemency powers over federal offenses, including the authority to pardon crimes and commute sentences.

Trump has been criticized for granting clemency to people with personal or political connections to him and for bypassing the Justice Department process through which clemency requests are typically considered.

In November, Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He has also pardoned longtime confidant Roger Stone, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, the father of his son-in-law Charles Kushner, as well as former House Republicans convicted of federal crimes and four military contractors convicted of a massacre in Baghdad.

Trump will leave Washington on Wednesday morning for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, without participating in any ceremonial events usually attended by the outgoing president.

Lauren Egan reported from Washington, D.C., and Doha Madani from New York.



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Welsh politicians SHAMED for ‘flouting’ coronavirus rules with private lockdown rager

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FOUR Welsh politicians have broken coronavirus rules by secretly gathering in Wales’ Parliament and drinking from an open bar, it has been claimed.

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